After the absolute mess that was Devil May Cry 2, Hideaki Itsuno returned to the fray in 2005 with this absolute banger, righting the wrongs of his previous effort, returning protagonist Dante to his righteously cocky self and letting loose with a no-holds-barred, non-stop action thrill-ride that, to this day, is as good as the Devil May Cry series ever got.

Even in the wake of the release of the latest in the series on current consoles, going back and experiencing Devil May Cry 3 all over again reveals a combat system that hasn't aged a bit. Some of the puzzles may seem a bit archaic, the camera can be a pain from time to time and those pre-rendered cutscenes have aged pretty badly, but the heart and soul of this third entry in the series is as fresh as the day it was released. This is still very much one of the great action games.

From the moment things kick off here, you can sense this is a series that's got its mojo back. Dante, a heavily subdued grump in the second game, is immediately back to his wise-cracking, arrogant, half-naked self and the first three missions waste absolutely no time in putting players through their paces with a non-stop blast of intense close-quarters action against a heady mix of enemy types – and even a very early mini-boss – before you've really even had a chance to consider just what exactly is going on. It calms down just a little after this – temporarily, at least – and throws a puzzle or two in so you can get your bearings, but over the course of its roughly fifteen-hour running time, this one is 100% all about the high octane action, flashy combos and big, beautiful boss battles, with a pace that never really lets up over the course of the twenty missions that see you through to its end.

Set ten years before the first installment in the series, Devil May Cry 3's story sees a young Dante hot on the heels of his brother Vergil and the mysterious Arkham, both of whom are out to open a portal between the human and demonic worlds using Vergil's half of the brother's family heirloom. What follows is a breathless chase from the bottom to the top of the mysterious tower of Temen-Ni-Gru, several epic face-offs between the brothers, a brief sojourn in the guts of a pretty angry leviathan, the obligatory interdimensional hijinks and some truly excellent boss battles that will test your skills to the max.

The boss battles here really do deserve special praise. For the most part properly (but never insurmountably) challenging, these are the types of beautifully-designed face-offs that are a delight to engage with. At first overwhelming – especially on higher difficulties – they become a joy as you experiment with and observe each boss, eventually revealing some Achilles heel for Dante to take advantage of.

The Agni and Rudra fight, one of the earlier big tests in the game, is a perfect example. You can bash your head off these two big lads for ages if you go about things sheepishly and in a stand-off manner. Get up close and personal, though, and you'll soon discover they can be put away in surprisingly short order with a couple of well-timed dodges and a sword clash that sees them lose their footing temporarily. It's the same with Nevan, Beowulf, the Cerberus and every other big encounter in the game; the devilishly clever design always offers an easier path if you've been paying attention and have mastered your skills to that point in the proceedings.

Of course, the big news with Devil May Cry 3 was its revamped combat system that allowed Dante to utilise a total of six different combat techniques – two of which unlock quite late on in the game – to go about dispatching his foes. From the outset Trickster, Swordsman, Gunslinger and Royalguard allowed you to adapt your style and, whether you wanted to concentrate on quickly dodging attacks, focus on sexy swordplay, master gun techniques or play extra defensively, Dante could select one of these fighting styles before each mission started.

In this new Switch edition, Capcom has added a brand new Freestyle mode to the game which allows you to jump between all of these various combat styles on the fly using the D-pad. It's an amazing tweak that genuinely affects the core gameplay for the better, opening up all manner of new ways in which to approach your enemies and string together an absolute ton of combos whilst flipping between styles to hit those all-important SSS rankings.

If that wasn't enough (and it really would have been) this new release also adds in the ability to play the Blood Palace challenge rooms – unlocked after you complete the opening mission – in local co-op, with one player assuming the role of Dante whilst the other plays as Vergil. Both of these new additions really add to an already immensely entertaining and highly replayable original package and ensure that Switch players are getting the ultimate version of this all-time great action game.

Devil May Cry 3 may be some fifteen years old now (has it really been that long?), the camera may be a bit wayward here and there and there's definitely a little bit too much backtracking and bounding around the central stairwell of Temen-Ni-Gru at one point, but the most important aspect – that fast and furious combat – remains as fresh as ever. This is also the best Dante has ever been in terms of characterisation; it totally nails his overly cocky attitude and, from riding around on missiles to blasting enemies to bits with his electric guitar, he's never less than a whooping, smug, loud-mouthed joy to behold here. Voice-acting across the board – from Dante and Vergil, newcomer Mary and all of the bosses you square off against – is also top-notch stuff; totally OTT and in very much in keeping with the ludicrous Matrix-inspired cutscenes.

In terms of this Switch port, both docked and handheld modes – as might be expected of a game of this vintage – run absolutely flawlessly, and the whole thing (apart from those pre-rendered cutscenes) still looks surprisingly good for the most part, especially when playing it on that smaller handheld screen. The framerate never falters, loading times are almost instantaneous and it only takes up 5GB of space, so you can keep it tucked away on your Switch indefinitely.

Conclusion

Devil May Cry 3 remains one of the very best action games ever made. It has certainly aged in places, but that turbo-charged, combo-heavy action feels as fresh today as it did back in 2005. The new Freestyle mode – which lets players swap combat styles on the fly at any point during the action – is a genuinely excellent addition to the package, and the ability to play Bloody Palace in local co-op is the cherry on top of a Switch port that should appeal to anyone interested in sampling the devilish delights of this all-time classic.